Kenny Mason – Angelic Hoodrat
Kenny Mason is a 25 year-old multi-talent from Atlanta who’s influences reach beyond the head banging trap found in the city’s underbelly. He’s inspired by The Pixies and Smashing Pumpkins more-so than a Young Thug or Lil Gotit. His official debut album Angelic Hoodrat carries a cult classic aurora to it thanks in large part to a sound that doesn’t confine itself to one region of the country (or one genre either).
Songs such as “Lean,” “PTSD,” and “30” are rap/rock crossovers that perfectly encapsulate Mason’s unbridled energy. He explores the duality of his vibrant persona, showing one side of himself making music for the people and another side of himself making music just for his sanity. Together, he toils with heartache, personal contemplation, and providing for your people with a target on your back. Angelic Hoodrat proves his ability to create concept albums that follow a consistent narrative. Then of course, there’s tracks like “Hit” (his 2019 breakthrough) and “Metal Wings;” full-on bangers with hypnotic flows and eerie reflection.
It all combines for 40 minutes of versatile harmony thanks to a producer and songwriter who’s unafraid to leave it all on the line.
Quelle Chris & Chris Keys – Innocent Country 2
The new collaboration between Quelle Chris and Chris Keys is less politically aggressive then Quelle’s solo project from last year (Guns), but it is exponentially more soulful production-wise. Keys curates whimsical melodies from glistening electric piano and subtle organ textures. Quelle performs as if he’s searching for a spiritual entity outside of just one channel. “Graphic Bleeds Out” demonstrates his ability to observe the world from an educative perspective, while “Sudden Death” asks listeners to take life by the horns without getting too frustrated.
The music itself functions as a breath of fresh air, almost as if you’ve escaped a burning building filled with toxic smoke. Quelle proves that he can still incite an interesting conversation around anything. “Black Twitter” mixes a soaring xylophone with effervescent drum taps. Quelle’s at his most persuasive when speaking on racial politics, suggesting that we as a country must extend the discussion beyond social media and one-month appreciations-“Takes more than February for black obser-vance/Tip said black is black and the congregation sang, “for sure”/Word, bet this ain’t no B.E.T/This black entertainment that don’t rerun what black used to be.” This album perfectly balances purposeful buoyancy with careful introspection.
Gao the Arsonist & Empty Sentiment – Solstice
Ever since news came out about the UFO sightings from the Pentagon, I’ve developed different methods of preparation for when aliens actually do come down to save us from the looming apocalypse (and killer bees now apparently). My friend thinks it could be the start of a real-life Star Wars where multiple planets exist with flying cars and alternate ways of life. Yes, this is the shit we talk about while playing Call Of Duty until 3 in the morning. What else is there to do doing quarantine?
Before the UFO news, I was introduced to this project from Empty Sentiment and Gao the Arsonist, two artists who clearly have the same conversations about substitute realities where other species implant some type of police state into our current livelihood. This is the basis for Solstice, a 16-minute narrative project that offers a mind bending odyssey into this made up (but possibly realistic) world. In this particular space, there’s copious amounts of acid use, persistent nausea, and ticking time bomb production. The bass is heavier than the weight on these people’s shoulders. Freedom and hope for the future are nonexistent. This is what you get when you mix Contagion with 1984. The first track is titled “Welcome to Idem,” but it might as well read “Welcome to Earth.” This is the new reality.
Westside Gunn – Pray For Paris
I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with rap twitter over the past month. People disagreed with me when I said Kid Cudi’s discography was better than Drake’s, and that’s okay. But what really grinds my gears is when music fans on the site participate in recency bias. One day Lil Uzi’s album is praised as the best of the year; the next it’s widely forgotten (and oddly despised) once Playboi Carti shows inklings of a project release.
One thing rap twitter and I did agree on was Westside Gunn’s new album Pray For Paris. Yes, it’s as great as everyone says it is. Westside sounds more confident than ever and the stacked feature list lives up to the hype. I just wonder if this album would be as highly heralded without DJ Premier, The Alchemist and Tyler, the Creator consistently having their hands on it. Just a thought.
Big Moochie Grape – Eat or Get Ate
The story surrounding Big Moochie Grape is very inspiring, especially considering the environment in which he grew up in. His mom kicked him out of the house at a very young age, so all the East Memphis native could do is learn from experience. He began taking rap more seriously at the end of last year, and started handing out demo tapes to DJs at local clubs. This is the old-school hustler’s mentality that’s been lost since Soundcloud and YouTube first hit the market as premier places to blow up. Moochie din’t have to do that. It only took him three months until local legend Young Dolph quickly gained interest in Moochie after his local hit “Uh Huh Uh Huh Uh Huh” surfaced in the streets (and festered in my playlist for about a month).
Moochie’s persistence reminds me a lot of the early bootlegging days when mixtapes were handed out via someone’s trunk. It’s exciting to see a DIY artist gain so much traction in such a short amount of time. The tape goes incredibly hard too, with “Uh Huh Uh Huh U Huh” being the focal point for classic Memphis braggadocio.
Smino – She Already Decided
Still bumping this tape two-three weeks later. See last week’s column for more details. Also, is that Bhad Babie on his shirt?
Bonus Round: Chief Keef – “Woosah/Street Cat”
I was talking to one of my friends from New York on FaceTime the other day. He confidently said that Chief Keef’s recent output is terrible. As Adam Sandler says in Uncut Gems, “I disagree.”